The first group of disaster relief volunteers with N.C. Baptists on Mission have deployed to Florida in response to Hurricane Ian and more volunteers are expected to join them later this week.

The first group of disaster relief volunteers with N.C. Baptists on Mission have deployed to Florida in response to Hurricane Ian and more volunteers are expected to join them later this week.

Members of the N.C. disaster relief water rescue team departed for Florida early Wednesday morning (Sept. 28) ahead of the storm that is expected to make landfall later in the day. The team will set up staging operations at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesville, Fla., which is about 50 miles northwest of Orlando. The team will be deployed as needed to assist victims in need of rescue resulting from storm surge and flooding brought on by the hurricane.

As of Wednesday morning, Hurricane Ian had strengthened to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained wind speeds reported at 155 mph, just 2 mph shy of the threshold that would classify the storm in the most devestating Category 5 status. 

According to the National Hurricane Center, catastrophic wind damage is expected along the southwestern coast of Florida as Ian makes landfall. Heavy rainfall will spread across the Florida peninsula through Thursday and will also reach portions of the southeastern United States later this week and into the weekend. Widespread, life-threatening flooding is expected across Florida, with considerable flooding also anticipated in southeastern Georgia, coastal South Carolina and parts of North Carolina.

“We appreciate the prayers of North Carolina Baptists as many of our volunteers prepare to go and for those who are already on the road to respond,” said Tom Beam, N.C. Baptists on Mission disaster relief coordinator. “Of course we pray for minimal damage, but we are ready to respond along with our partners. We will do whatever is needed to care for people who are hurting by sharing the gospel with them in word and deed.”

Beam said an additional 50 to 100 disaster relief volunteers from North Carolina will deploy to Florida later in the week. N.C. Baptists have been asked to set up mass feeding, recovery operations, water purification, shower and laundry units, and other support ministries in Florida, Beam said.

In addition to deploying volunteers to Florida, Beam said N.C. Baptists and others are monitoring Ian’s potential impact in North Carolina and stand ready to respond across the state, as well.

North Carolina Emergency Management officials said the state is preparing for heavy rainfall and possible flooding on Friday and Saturday from the remnants of Hurricane Ian.

Rain chances will increase across southeastern North Carolina on Thursday night, with the most widespread rainfall expected on Friday and Saturday. Much of North Carolina is forecast to see 2 to 5 inches late this week and weekend, but 5 to 7 inches or more will be possible near the coast and along the Blue Ridge escarpment.

The rainfall could lead to localized flash flooding, landslides in the mountains, and rises on main-stem rivers. Rainfall totals and the timing of the heaviest rain could be adjusted based on the eventual track of Ian.

Gusty winds, isolated tornadoes, minor coastal flooding and hazardous marine conditions will also be possible late this week and weekend as Ian moves through the region. Isolated downed trees and power outages will be possible due to gusty winds and saturated soils.

“While we don’t yet know exactly how this storm will impact our state, it’s clear that this will be a significant rain event for much of North Carolina and now is the time for people to get prepared,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We are tracking the storm closely and strongly advise everyone across the state to have an emergency kit and emergency plan in place.”

The State Emergency Response Team will activate Thursday, Sept. 29, at the State Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh and plans to move to 24-hour operations on Friday morning.

“We are coordinating with our partners in government and the non-profit and private sectors to make sure we are ready to support local communities through whatever Ian brings,” said State Emergency Management Director Will Ray in a statement.

Beam said N.C. Baptists on Mission is among the organizations that work directly with state emergency management officials.

“We’re directly involved with the state emergency operations center,” Beam said. “We look forward to working with all of our partners to respond as we’re needed in North Carolina.” 

Disaster relief is one of 19 different ministries of N.C. Baptists on Mission, which is supported by gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering.